by Janet Blue on May 30, 2016

Today our country celebrates Memorial Day. This federal holiday originated as Decoration Day. It was established in the United States to remember those who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Decoration Day was established after the American Civil War in 1868. The Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, set aside this day as a time for the nation to decorate graves of Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions (celebrated on different days) had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Memorial Day 2016

Lucy Gilmer Breckinridge Bassett

In honor of Memorial Day, I am sharing a poem I wrote in 1984 after reading, Lucy Breckinridge of Grove Hill: The Journal of a Virginia Girl, 1862-1864. 

Lucy Breckinridge was a nineteen-year-old girl who grew up very close to where I have lived since 1976. Three of her brothers and her first fiancé lost their lives in the Civil War. Lucy married Thomas Jefferson Bassett on January 28, 1865. She died just six-months later from typhoid fever.

 Paper Soldier

Driving past Fincastle sepia-
toned visions of Lucy Breckinridge,
like confederate soldiers, infiltrate
my thoughts. Her spirit forever
where Grove Hill once stood.
Civil War—idle days spent
writing letters, praying,
visiting the Bridge, Bonsack,
Buchanan, always waiting
for news of the wounded,
dead, battles lost and won.

A woman born to the wrong
Century, longing, yet
conditioned to reject
desire, to take up a pistol,
join with her brothers—
“Shoot some Yankees,”
or drench Virginia soil
with her blood—no more
precious than any man’s.
Silent yearnings secreted
100 years in her journal,
like a squirrel’s forgotton
winter nuts, now blaze
in my mind like cannon fire.

© Janet Buickerood Blue, 1984
Published originally in Wind Literary Journal
Volume 14 – Number 51

I suspect those who established this holiday had no idea how many American lives would be lost in subsequent wars and military conflicts. According to PBS News Hour that number is now in excess of 1.1 million. The enormity of that number truly saddens me. Today, all those who have lost their lives, as well as those who have lost loved ones and friends, are in my thoughts and prayers.


memorial day

Canadian Cats June 2, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Very interesting post my friends.

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Three Chatty Cats May 30, 2016 at 11:27 pm

What a beautiful poem. Thank you so much for sharing it!
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meowmeowmans May 30, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Wow, Janet. That’s such a moving poem.

We’re so grateful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us all, but pray for the day when there is no more blood shed.
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Ellen Pilch May 30, 2016 at 3:36 pm

That is an amazing poem, you are very talented.
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caren gittleman May 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Fabulous tribute, the poem was incredible!
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Kitty Cat Chronicles May 30, 2016 at 11:53 am

Beautiful poem, Janet. Wow… 1.1 million lives lost. That is heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing your writing with us. We will be remembering all who gave their lives for the wonderful freedoms we get to enjoy today. Sampy sends zillions of kisses to Astrid, and we all send lots of love!
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The Menagerie Mom May 30, 2016 at 11:38 am

This is truly beautiful, Janet. I am so grateful for all of the men and women who have served and died for our country. But, I also pray that there comes a day when no one need die for peace. Wishing you a blessed Memorial Day.
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Lavinia Ross May 30, 2016 at 11:20 am

Beautiful prose, Janet. I wonder if your Lucy Breckinridge might have been a relative of Mary Carson Breckinridge who founded the Frontier Nursing Service in Hyden, Kentucky.

Hopefully the day will come when there are no more wars.

Linda Arthur Tejera May 30, 2016 at 9:55 am

What a wonderful poem, Janet. It’s just beautiful. And this post is a beautiful tribute to all those who have or are serving in the military.
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Chuck Huss May 30, 2016 at 9:31 am

That’s great. Looks like you have always been a talented writer. It feels wrong to say “Have a Happy Memorial Day” but after all, those brave soldiers died so that we could be happy.
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Sometimes Cats Herd You May 30, 2016 at 8:51 am

What a beautiful poem! We cross our paws that losing life in conflict will be a memory someday, too.
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Brian Frum May 30, 2016 at 8:30 am

That is a most wonderful tribute to our heroes. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

The Island Cats May 30, 2016 at 8:29 am

Very beautiful poem. The number of those that have given their lives for freedom is staggering. We remember…and honor…them today…and always.
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Toby May 30, 2016 at 5:11 am

What a lovely poem and remembrance. We also pray for the day when the need for good men and women to die for their country will end.
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Little Binky and Granny May 30, 2016 at 4:40 am

Very touching poem and post. We have had our memorial day the 4th of May and it is always tough to stand still by everything that has happened, even if we are younger. Extra Pawkisses for a Happy Memorial Day to you all 🙂 <3
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Sammy May 30, 2016 at 4:32 am

Wonderfully poignant poem Janet……that number of lives lost total is staggering…..every Memorial Day my heart aches all over again for the losses but I still have hope in my heart for the future – that peace will reign and the lives lost will NOT have been in vain…………Hope the Blues have a peaceful holiday.

Love, Pam (and Sam)
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Pipo/Minko/MrJackFreckles May 30, 2016 at 4:04 am

What a touching poem.
Thank you for reminding us what Memorial Day really is all about.
Many make it jovial and an excuse to eat…but its truly a serious holiday that should make us stop and think and give thanks to those who have and are keeping us free.

Summer May 30, 2016 at 2:37 am

I’m impressed by your poem! We remember today, and I purr for the day when no more blood needs to be shed.
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